Prescribing nature and the creative arts to improve wellbeing

Looking to boost wellbeing by means other than pills and medication, GPs are increasingly turning to a dose of nature and the creative arts. One such pioneering project – Marsh, Arts and Us - can be found in the heart of the Broads National Park and in artists’ workshops in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft.

An unlikely partnership has seen community artists come together with charities who offer support with housing, wellbeing and employment to vulnerable people, offering a dose of art and nature amongst the marshes and rivers of the Broads National Park.

Linocut artwork

Marsh, Arts and Us is a community programme designed by the Broads Authority as part of their Water, Mills and Marshes Landscape Partnership scheme to engage disconnected communities with nature and art. Over the next three years, two community artists will deliver 16 projects – all inspired by the Broads National Park.

Participants from in and around Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth visit river and marsh landscapes of the Broads National Park, where they learn about the culture and landscape history, ecology and biodiversity of the Broads. Subsequently, they meet each week to take part in workshops and create artwork related to their experiences in nature.

Can creating art as a result of being immersed in nature have a significant positive impact upon wellbeing?

Ian Brownlie, a mixed-media community artist and one of the two Marsh, Arts and Us artists, certainly thinks so.
“There is therapeutic value in expression, which can come from any creative activity. This project links creative expression, with the immeasurable benefits of being in nature and outside”, he said.

“As human beings, we have become isolated and disconnected from the seasons and nature, so anything that brings us back to that will have a positive impact upon wellbeing.”

Project participants get to try using different media including: painting, music, lino-cutting, creative writing, charcoal drawing and song writing with ukuleles. Their Broads-inspired creations will then form part of free exhibitions for the wider public.

A number of the project participants have been referred via ‘social prescribing’, an NHS initiative which aims to support family doctors with non-urgent care by linking individuals with social activities.

Playing the ukelele

January saw the NHS mobilise what it described as an ‘army’ of 1000 social prescribing workers across the UK by providing a range of social interventions for people to improve their health and wellbeing, reduce loneliness and social isolation.

Hedley Swain, Area Director, South East, Arts Council England, said,

“It’s really important to the Arts Council that everyone has the opportunity to access and experience arts and culture, irrespective of their background or circumstance. Projects like this, which take arts and culture into new settings, are a really important way of achieving this.”

Anna Collingbourne, a lead project officer for the Water, Mills and Marshes scheme said of the project:

“We’re so proud to have been awarded the opportunity to lead the new Marsh, Arts and Us project. It’s a wonderful opportunity for the Broads Authority to share the beautiful National Park which we look after with members of the community who might otherwise struggle to have access to it.”

Tuesday 8 October 2019